Unfortunately, there is a dark side to Irish history. Let’s take a look at five of the most notorious murders involving Irish people of all time.
While Ireland is often considered a land of merriment and craic, there is also a dark side to Ireland’s history, just like anywhere else in the world. Some horrific murders have taken place in Ireland, many at the hands of Irish people.
From murders of Irish citizens to those that took place on Irish soil, let’s take a look at the five most notorious Irish murders of all time.
- Unfortunately, there is a dark side to Irish history. Let’s take a look at five of the most notorious murders involving Irish people of all time.
- 5. The Maamtrasna murders – one of the most famous trials in Ireland of all time
- 4. The murder of Lisa Dorrian – unsolved for 18 years
- 3. The 1976 murders of Elizabeth Plunkett and Mary Duffy – murders committed by Ireland’s most notorious serial killers
- 2. Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan’s double murder – the ‘demon dentist’
- 1. The murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier – a massive, high-profile Irish murder
5. The Maamtrasna murders – one of the most famous trials in Ireland of all time
The Maamtrasna murders will start off our list of the five most notorious Irish murders of all time. This famous case took place in August 1882, before Ireland gained independence from the UK, when the Joyce family were brutally murdered as they slept at home in Maamtrasna.
The victims were John, Brigid, Mairead, Peigi, and Michael Joyce. This is one of the most notorious Irish murders that shocked the nation at the time and continues to shock today.
One of the biggest injustices surrounding this case was that the eight men convicted of the crime spoke only Irish, and their trials took place completely in English. Three of the eight men were executed.
Two years later, one of the witnesses admitted his fault in the convictions of these innocent men. In 2018, President Michael D. Higgins issued his pardon to one of the men hanged “for a crime he did not commit”.
4. The murder of Lisa Dorrian – unsolved for 18 years
County Down woman Lisa Dorrian first went missing in 2005. Shockingly, the person who killed her has never been brought to justice, and her body has never been found in the past 18 years.
In those years since her murder, which occurred sometime in the early hours of 27 February 2005, her family has never stopped seeking justice.
The police strongly believe that there are people out there aside from the murderer who knows where Lisa’s body is and who it was that took her life. As such, there have been many Crimestoppers rewards offered for information.
3. The 1976 murders of Elizabeth Plunkett and Mary Duffy – murders committed by Ireland’s most notorious serial killers
Two of the most notorious Irish serial killers of all time are Geoffrey Evans and John Shaw, the two men responsible for murdering Elizabeth Plunkett and Mary Duffy in 1976.
Police previously investigated the two English men for a string of rapes committed in England in 1974. However, they were able to evade arrest by travelling to Ireland.
It was in Wicklow in August 1976 that they raped and murdered Elizabeth Plunkett, who was just 23 years old. Just one month later, 23-year-old Mary Duffy would become their final victim before they received two life sentences for the murders.
Geoffrey Evans died in May 2012, but John Shaw has gained the title of Ireland’s longest-serving prisoner, currently in his 47th year of sentencing.
2. Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan’s double murder – the ‘demon dentist’
Immortalised in the Netflix series The Secret starring James Nesbit and Genevieve O’Reilly, the double murders committed by Colin Powell and Hazel Buchanan in 1991 are two of the most notorious Irish murders of all time.
After starting a year-long affair behind their spouses’ backs, Howell and Stewart fatally gassed the pair, named Lesley and Trevor. They then tried to stage their deaths as a double suicide.
The two got away with the murder for 18 years until Howell confessed their crimes to his church elders in 2009 at the insistence of his wife. Howell implicated Hazel Stewart with every detail he recalled.
Eventually, he received a 21-year sentence, while Hazel received an 18-year sentence. They are both still serving their sentences as of 2023.
1. The murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier – a massive, high-profile Irish murder
Taking the top spot on our list of the five most notorious Irish murders of all time is that of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. This is one crime that has baffled spectators for years and has inspired several documentaries and podcasts.
Sophie Toscan du Plantier was a 39-year-old French woman who spent some time in Ireland. She was killed outside her holiday home near Toormore, Goleen, County Cork, on 23 December 1996.
English journalist Ian Bailey has consistently remained the prime suspect in du Plantier’s murder. Despite being arrested twice by the Garda Síochána, no charges have been laid against him.
The Cour d’Assises in Paris convicted Bailey in 2019 and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. After winning a legal battle against extradition, he was tried in absentia in France. In 2020, Ireland’s High Court ruled against ever extraditing Bailey. All efforts of extradition have since effectively ended.